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You Can Teach Writing

By: Linda Aragoni | January 12, 2018

If you believe that writing is a talent granted to only a select few, you will tend to focus your attention on the students you think are talented while paying minimal attention to the rest. That's a poor choice. There are far more people who can become good writers through persistent practice of the right skills than there are talented writers who will become great.   You must believe every student can learn to write competently. If you can't believe that every student who walks into your classroom can become a competent writer, you shouldn't become a writing teacher. Confidence in your students — not in them as they are, but in them as what can become — is an essential qualification for teaching writing. I'd guess that at lea...

Category: Teachers 

Tags: competence 

By: Linda Aragoni | June 02, 2017

Seth Godin posted thoughts about quality on his blog today. He says that at the workplace there are at least three different ways to define quality:
  • The outcome satisfies the requirement.
  • The outcome goes far beyond what's required.
  • The outcome shows the worker put in a lot of effort.
In New York State education regulations, students who do passing work are deemed proficient. In my dictionaries, proficient means expert. An expert is not just satisfying the requirement; he's going beyond. That's why it bugs me when I see a rubric that labels the middle of the scale proficient. On my mental rubric, the mid-point of the Writing Quality Scale isn't proficient but competent. Competent writing satisfies the requirement. Writing that g...

By: Linda Aragoni | October 17, 2014

Learning is not just a cognitive activity. How well we learn — and if we learn — is influenced by other factors, including whether we feel some kinship with the instructor, when we ate  last, and how long it's been since we were able to get out of our seats to move around. I read a blog post yesterday that listed phrases that students could use as self-talk messages. Positive self-talk creates a self-fulfilling prophesy. Such messages can be very useful in helping people modify their behavior in positive ways. As I read, I started to wonder when it became necessary to give students scripts to encourage themselves to take on challenges. Restroom signs I was mulling that over as I went to the store for milk. A woman and three teenage girls were i...

By: Linda Aragoni | August 12, 2011

Don't set your writing course objectives equal to a grade of A. Set them equal to a C. You want everyone to achieve writing competence, even the even the dullards, the unmotivated, and the lazy students. You have a fighting chance of getting the back-of-the-room, bottom-of-the-class group to try for a C. Competent expository writing is:
  • Unified to make one clear point (its thesis).
  • Organized clearly in support of that thesis.
  • Developed with adequate detail to make readers think the thesis is plausible.
  • Presented clearly so readers never have to guess at the writer's meaning. Correct grammar, punctuation, and usage contribute to the writer's presentation.
When student are competent expository writers, I can stop teaching them about e...
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